It’s been a couple hundred years since astrology and astronomy were treated as cozy bedfellows in the field of human inquiry, but because metaphysics is a fucking trip, we can still identify uncanny (and often accidental) parallels between the scientific properties of certain planets and the astrological meanings or significations we’ve assigned them.
Here are a few fun synchronicities that unite astrology and astronomy in indirect (and unexpected) ways.
Most of us are aware that the Moon’s gravitational pull is responsible for the motion of the ocean’s tides. However, this has only been common knowledge since Sir Isaac Newton’s discovery in 1687. Astrologically, the Moon has been ruled by Cancer since the days of the ancients. Cancer’s mascot is the crab, which dwells in the ocean’s changeable tidal waters and is accustomed, strangely enough, to the Moon’s rhythmic effect on its home environment. And what is the Moon in astrology but the celestial body that establishes rhythm?
The ever-fluctuating Moon is a stimulator and an activator of all the other planets in the solar system — much in the same way that it’s a stimulator and an activator of the ocean’s tides. You can honestly see this playing out today on any given day. By merely looking at all the aspects the Moon makes in a single 24-hour period (given that it moves so quickly), you can get a feel for how it’s constantly pushing and pulling on the existing dynamics of the cosmos, establishing a lunar rhythm that ebbs and flows like the tides.
Most of us also realize that everything in our solar system revolves around the Sun, and that’s because it’s freaking massive (literally). It accounts for 99.86% of the total mass of the entire solar system.
Because the Sun looms large in the sky and is quite literally the reason we have light (and life) on Earth, many ancient cultures worshipped the Sun, so it’s easy to see how we extrapolated that the Sun should import its regal symbolism to the sign of Leo and act as a significator for “The King.” But surely the pre-Copernicus astrologers couldn’t have anticipated how convenient it would be that our solar system is, factually, heliocentric. Now, when people go on Twitter to roast Leos for being solipsistic and acting like the whole world revolves around them, they can just point to science for poetic backup.
Mercury is technically the closest planet to the Sun, which means it has the fastest orbit. It’s probably for this reason that it became associated with the messenger god Mercury. In astrology, Mercury involves literal movement (like travel and transportation), and it also involves conceptual movement (like words, news, and communication). The messenger planet’s constant bobbing and weaving through the solar system has a way of “connecting the dots,” or synthesizing various pieces of data in a way that then translates into thoughts and ideas.
Think of the word “mercurial.” It means “subject to sudden or unpredictable changes of mood or mind.” As Mercury zips around and gathers information, it’s constantly subject to new data or information coming in, and in order to remain in a state of divine “now”ness, Mercury has to be flexible and agile enough to constantly synthesize new information as it comes in.
Strangely enough, the astronomical reality of Mercury is that it has the most eccentric orbit in the solar system, and it’s the only planet that doesn’t rotate exactly once per year. This means that over time, its orbit around the Sun shifts slightly — and it’s impossible to predict precisely where it’ll land, though we can come close.
Venus is the hottest planet in the solar system, and also, coincidentally, symbolically associated with hotties. In astrology, Venus is about that aesthetic.
What’s also interesting to note is that Venus is the closest planet to Earth (in the astronomical sense. Astrologically, we’d count the Moon as a planet too, but Venus is more of a true “friend” than a busy assistant orbiting around us and touching up our makeup). This tangible proximity — as well as the fact that Venus and Earth are considered “twin” planets due to their similar size, density, mass, and volume — seems fitting for a planet that is, astrologically, all about relationships and social dynamics. Moreover, the Venus-ruled sign Libra is all about balance and equality, and frankly, no other planet seems better-equipped to counterbalance us here on Earth.
Okay, this one’s semi-obvious. Red Planet anyone? It’s widely believed that the bloody pallor of Mars is visible enough to the naked eye that the Romans actually factored that into their association of Mars with their war god (who is also associated with the color red). So…no big mystery there.
One interesting synchronicity that the Romans couldn’t have known about: the tallest mountain in the solar system sits on the surface of our bad boy Mars. Coincidentally, Mars is exalted in the sign of Capricorn, the sign of the mountain goat. There is quite literally no higher peak for Cap to climb than the one that’s physically on Mars (assuming a goat could survive on Mars, but that’s a different story).
Jupiter is the giant of our solar system, and naturally, he’s all about MORE and BIG and LARGESSE in astrology. Jupiter is actually two and a half times more massive than all the other planets in the solar system combined. Okay, big guy!
But perhaps one of the reasons why Jupiter just can’t be contained is because it’s literally just a giant ball of gas, which seems fitting for a planet that is astrologically associated with expansion (which is what gas does at certain temperatures) and, occasionally, empty promises (zing).
Jupiter is also home to a raging thunderstorm that has been going on for at least 350 YEARS (!). This storm is large enough to fit three Earths inside of it. Interestingly enough, the Roman god Jupiter presided over thunderstorms, so it somehow seems right that the planet named after him would also be able to accommodate lightning so massive it puts anything we’ve seen here on Earth to shame.
And lastly, can we talk about how many moons orbit Jupiter? At one point, I think remember reading that Jupiter had 69 confirmed moons (nice), but that number has now apparently swelled to at least 79. No matter where the final tally lies, we know that Jupiter literally and mythically gets around (hence the harem). The Roman god Jupiter was hella promiscuous, which was really just an expression of the metaphysical impulse to expand in every conceivable direction.
Saturn, the planet associated with boundaries and limits in astrology, is probably most famous for its iconic rings, which demarcate a visual boundary around the planet. Cute!
That might be where the correlations between astrology and astronomy end though. Saturn also has a bunch of moons (though admittedly not as many as Jupiter), which makes it sound like the physical planet has never experienced a proper Saturn transit, which can involve decrease and contraction on some level.
Additionally, Saturn is the least dense planet in the solar system, which runs counter to its astrological image as a heavy, iron-clad harbinger of material permanence.
What’s funny is that even scientific descriptions of Uranus describe it as the “oddball” of the solar system, which is thanks to its extreme tilt (it basically lies on its side), its unstable and unpredictable moons, the constantly changing orientation of its magnetic field, and a host of other puzzles.
In astrology, Uranus brings surprises in our daily lives and disruption and innovation on a global scale. It can change the game in an instant, making sudden moves to “blow up our lives” and get us out of a rut. It’s also often associated with “weirdness,” which is really just aberration from the norm. There are no guarantees with Uranus aside from “that which is unexpected” (LOL, don’t act like you’re above a butt joke).
Oh, also, of course the planet Uranus would literally smell like farts. It’s not here to make you comfortable.
The story surrounding Neptune’s discovery (and continued observation since) are fittingly mired in confusion and mystique, which is funny because, you know, astrological Neptune is “nebulous” and all that.
Actually, the first couple of times Neptune was sighted, it was confused for something else. Then, much more recently, we discovered a Great Dark Spot on Neptune’s surface in 1989, which was basically a massive storm with some of the strongest winds recorded on any planet. This is in itself a mystery, because we’re still apparently not sure how such an icy planet so far from the Sun could sustain such powerful winds. But the Great Dark Spot has also disappeared and reappeared in a different part of Neptune’s atmosphere. And moreover, we’ve only seen Neptune up close once, when we sent the Voyager 2 to take its headshots. Mysterious!
It’s fitting that Pluto is a scrappy dwarf planet that struggles to maintain its status in astronomy, though it is arguably one of the most heavy-handed, looming presences in astrology. Scientifically, we’ve disowned Pluto and denied its importance, relegating it to the trashbin of our planetary system. And yet Pluto represents everything that we try to disown about ourselves — Carl Jung’s psychological shadow — which gets more powerful the more we deny it.
Also, as if death planet Pluto wasn’t goth enough as it was, there’s a large, frozen heart on its surface, and it’s probably literally quite dark on the shadowy planet. It’s the furthest planet from the Sun, which means sunlight has roughly the same intensity on Pluto as moonlight does on Earth.